May 20, 2016

Moving On: How to Embrace Plan B.

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What do we do when the one relationship we want is the one we can’t have?

Well, if you’re like me, you take a minute to deal with your feelings about it and then you make your life unbelievably f*cking fantastic!

And it’s not for revenge. It’s not even a consolation prize for the life you wanted. Instead, we choose to make a fabulous life for ourselves because we only have these precious moments to live and living with regret would be such a waste.

When something in our lives eludes us, we have to consider that it’s not for us or that the timing isn’t right. It could be a relationship or a job or anything else we’ve set our sights on. Regardless of the reason we can’t have what we want, we can choose instead to practice gratitude for what we do have and to choose to live a full life despite the twist in the path we had planned.

I’m a planner. I love to plan day trips and small adventures. Plotting and planning things makes me happy. Because I love to plan, I can become frustrated when there are obstacles in my way. However, the advantage of being such a good planner is that I can also redirect my energy into planning a life that is fulfilling regardless of these obstacles. I think that it’s important that we don’t become fixated on our goals to the point that we’re blinded to other opportunities.

I’ve been guilty of this more than once in my life. I planned college and graduate school, which I successfully completed (though on a slower timeline). I even planned for a marriage and children (fast-forward a decade later to divorce and single parenting). And then there was a relationship that I wanted—and you can mark it down to bad timing or lack of interest—but it didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped.

Honestly, I don’t even believe in the concept of bad timing. If I was the right person for him (or he for me), the timing would have been just fine. Bad timing is just what we tell ourselves so that we don’t feel as bad about how it worked out. However we choose to look at it, for me, this relationship ended. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m a big believer in accepting the truth of what is rather than clinging to the fantasy.

The interesting thing about this situation is that in the aftermath of my broken heart, I found that I didn’t really want a relationship. Excuse me; I should be clear: I wanted that relationship specifically, but I didn’t want just any relationship. I wanted to explore my own interests and enjoy time with my family and friends. I didn’t want to date half-heartedly. What I wanted was to simply enjoy my life, being open to the relationship I wanted coming back or to meeting someone with whom I could build a new relationship.

After this relationship fell apart, I also had the chance to think about what I really wanted. I felt like there was an assumption in that failed relationship that what I wanted was something serious. Sure, I wanted to be in that relationship, but I didn’t want to rush down an aisle, lugging a diamond ring on my finger. I find so often that there’s an assumption that all women want that diamond ring, that if we want a relationship we can only want a serious one.

I just want a simple thing—just a garden-variety boyfriend. I mean that in the best way possible. A person to talk to first thing in the morning and right before I fall asleep. A person to care for and enjoy spending time with. I want attraction and affection and connection and chemistry and an acknowledged public relationship. I just wanted a Hallmark movie channel boyfriend minus the implication of an impending marriage.

When things don’t work out as planned, we need to scrap that plan and start over.

A failed relationship becomes an opportunity to evaluate what we want (a garden-variety boyfriend) and what we don’t (rushing right back into another marriage). In that place between the relationship we lost and the one that’s next, we have space to explore who we are, what we enjoy, what we need and what we want our lives to look like. There’s so much opportunity in that time and space, but sometimes it’s easy to focus on the loneliness. The ache for another human being to care for can sometimes eclipse the very real chance we have of learning about who we are uncoupled.

When the one relationship we want is the one we can’t have, we can learn to focus on the relationship that we have with ourselves. We can build our beautiful lives on what we have now and we’ll be ready for whatever comes when it gets here.

Outside of relationships, when the certain job or school or dream fails to come to fruition in the way that we had intended, we have to learn ways of moving forward despite the disappointment. I’m not talking about settling. I’m talking about finding our passion inside that space.  Planning a f*cking fantastic life can only be achieved when we stop looking back toward what’s over and done. Instead, we have to start seeing what we have right now, in this moment.

How do we do this? How do we move forward when it feels like our lives have been crushed beneath the weight of our disappointment?

For me, I created a vision board. I sat down and made a list (yes, I’m a planner, and I make lists). I listed all of the things I wanted in my life. I let my imagination run wild and I imagined an ideal life for myself. Then I got online and printed out  pictures and words to illustrate this and I pasted them all over a board. I kept some of it general, to allow room for change. I let this vision board become a guideline to remind me of what I want from my life. It’s not a set plan and it doesn’t have set timelines. What it has, however, is a vision of the life I want to live. To be a good mom. To travel. To learn. To keep trying. To dream. I hung my vision board in a prominent place so that I never again lose sight of what I have and what I want while longing for what I’ve lost.

Our lives are here, happening now. Sometimes we don’t get what we want. If you’re a fan of rock, you’re familiar with “you can’t always get what you want… but sometimes you just might find you get what you need.” (Rolling Stones) If you’re a fan of country, you might be more familiar with “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.” (Garth Brooks)  Sometimes that relationship (or job or school or other plan) we think we want is not what we need. The message remains: when things don’t work out the way we planned, we need to reach inside for some gratitude and move on to Plan B.

Author: Crystal Jackson

Editor: Sarah Kolkka

Image: zoë biggs/Flickr

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